south works

Rendering of planned mixed-use development on Chicago’s south lakefront.

European developers revealed plans to build as many as 20,000 modular homes on the 440-acre former site of the U.S. Steel South Works plant on Chicago’s south lakefront. While many previous plans for the long dormant site have been pitched and fizzled, city leaders are cautiously optimistic development will finally happen.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed the proposed “lakefront city” that would replace Chicago’s “industrial past.” The South Works lakefront site has been vacant since U.S. Steel shuttered the plant way back in 1992.

“This agreement is a major milestone towards converting an unused stretch of land that represents Chicago’s industrial past into a vibrant community that will contribute to Chicago’s economic, cultural and recreational future,” Emanuel said in a statement.

The proposed development is being spearheaded by Emerald Living, an international partnership between Dublin-based WELink Group and Barcelona Housing Systems. The plan is to build 20,000 modular, environmentally-friendly homes as well as “opportunities for commercial retail and office spaces, taking advantage of extensive lakeshore frontage and views of the Chicago skyline,” the group said in a press release.

Renderings o the proposal shows a mix of low-rise and midrise building, parks, pedestrian and bike paths, and waterfront walkways with boat docks. The Chicago Tribune reports given the the massive size of the South Works project, it will be constructed in phases over the next decade-plus.

City officials also said the development would also honor the site working-class roots. U.S. Steel employed more than 20,000 workers at a time during its 100-year plus run on the site.

“It’s not gonna be $500,000 or $600,000 homes in a community where there’s a gate and you have to be buzzed in,” Local Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s gonna be conducive to what was once here: a working class neighborhood that provides solid housing and good amenities for the people from the South Side.”

A contract for the project has yet to be signed, but Garza said a letter-of-intent is in place. She added Emerald Living has five months to do its due diligence and that environmental issues could pop up.

“It’s a site where a steel mill sat for 100 years, so anything could happen,” Garza said.

It’s certainly been a long time coming Chicago. Could this finally be the one? Only time will tell.